Note: Anything in bold is an emphasis added by me.
December 8. Feast of the Immaculate Conception
I wish nobody had ever told me it was a good thing to attempt to know myself. ...I read Jung and tried to figure out what psychological type I was, and figured I was an "extroverted sensation type," whatever that is. I was certainly afraid of being an introvert. That is because introversion is a sin for materialists, and what is more it is used conversationally almost as if it were synonymous with "perversion."
I read some Virgina Woolf novel and thought I was one of the characters. I thought I was like George Gissing as he is described in Well's autobiography. (What a ridiculous thing it is to take oneself so seriously!)
But it is completely embarrassing to come upon such examples of vanity and pride. It is more pitiful to think how miserable and ignorant I continued to be while I was so unhappily engaged in the futile business of trying, in a reasonable and humanistic manner, to know myself. What floundering around! It was a wonder I remembered my own name! It was a greater wonder I remembered the names and faces of people around me.
Knowing myself-it was really a sort of desperate substitute for confession and penance. That was why it was so silly and so lamentably useless. For the only valid kind of self-knowledge is the amount needed for a good examination of conscience to make a good confession. But both of these are something God will give us if we pray humbly to Him for grace and love, and the important thing is God's love, not ourselves and what is in us. We don't want to know what is in ourselves in order to dwell upon it, treasure it, meditate upon it unless it is not of ourselves but of God. So everything that is of our own worldly desire and fear must be cast out so that we can see God within us and everywhere outside of us too. What we want to know is not ourselves but God.
"Know thyself"-it was proposed that if a man knew himself, he could manage himself so as to do just as much as he was capable of doing, etc. and be at peace just occupied enough to avoid boredom, not so busy as to get tired or flustered or excited-amused enough to be pleasantly stimulated, not enough to be choked and saturated. What a stupid idea, but above all, what a crazy idea to think it can be reached! It is a reflection of the peace and blessedness we all long for, however. That peace is not in knowing ourselves but in knowing God. But we must know ourselves, too: we must know this much: that we are not God. We already know we are unhappy: the amount of self-knowledge we need is simply what will help us find out the reasons for our unhappiness: that is what ways we have loved silly and inferior and imperfect things and preferred them before God.
Saint Theresa of Avila-The Interior Castle-says we must not dwell on self-knowledge alone, but pass on from it at once and go seeking God's love above everything, because every other desire is a traitor and every other knowledge is vain without God.
Without the love of God, or the explicit desire for Him, self-knowledge is futile and makes one very miserable, because one seeks this way to get out of a blind alley-and never does. We only think we want to know ourselves, but we really want to know God.
I was so preoccupied with self-knowledge that I didn't know anything about anybody else's feelings.
...All the bad confessions we make and all the half-hearted prayers and all the complicated stupid worries we get into with vile things coming into our minds, as if it wasn't our own fault and something to be taken with humility and not with anger and elaborate plans...all that is itself a way to take us away from praying and loving God and to make us think about hating filth instead. So these ideas will come, and why shouldn't they, good heavens, after the things I have done for so long my head is full of crap! Half the images and most of the language that occurs to me is scatological, because I have been in all that up to the neck, wallowing about rather weakly, claiming to know myself.
So if all that, as it must, presents itself to me and scares and torments me sometimes, then I must above all things avoid playing the "know myself" game, because if I do it will surely mean losing what little I can find of a path to God.
People who "know themselves" are always the ones who can't see the beam in their own eye. In getting to "know themselves" they have studied their own faults so closely and with such loving care that they see them in everybody around them even if they are not there.
May we always seek to know you above knowing ourselves. May we find our identity in you and may you reveal to our hearts and minds the truths and insights we seek for and may you bless us with the deep sense of your presence as we lay down our attachments and egos at the foot of your throne and give you all of our attention, all of our devotion and all of our love.
Thank you for your great mercy, everlasting faithfulness and love. We give you all honor, glory and praise.
In Jesus' precious name,